Lessons from a lake - celebrating what matters
“Ladies, I have a crazy idea!” I announced as I approached the hotel reception desk.
I’d just finished delivering my presentation at an awayday at a venue in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps. It had gone well. I felt good. Outside the sun was shining. And my taxi wouldn’t be here until midday.
I’d been told there was a lake and I asked the receptionists how far away it was. They handed me a towel, a key and a map, explaining it was a ten-minute walk down the hill. I just about had enough time.
I practically skipped down the lane, tree-lined and with a lush green pasture to my left. At the bottom of the hill I came to a crossroads and a timber yard. Huge logs were stacked up in front of a sloped roof barn. I could hear the rush of water from a stream. The sunlight dappled the trees. It was idyllic.
I took a left turn, then a right turn and another left. There was the lake. Private gardens and boathouses to one side, big properties on the other. No cars. I passed a few people on foot.
But I couldn’t find the hotel’s badeplatz. I walked on, faster this time aware I didn’t have much time. If I couldn’t find it soon, I’d have to abandon the idea. I tried my key in the locks of some gates I passed. Once, twice. Three times. But none were the right gate.
I phoned the hotel and explained my location: I’d gone too far. Turning back I spotted two men up a cherry picker pruning a tree. “Morgan!” I called out. They asked me - in German - if I was lost. I must have looked a strange sight. Smart white shirt, a bag over my shoulder and a now crumpled map in my hand. A man on a crazy mission, the clock ticking.
I told them I was looking for the private beach of the hotel. They gestured from their high vantage point it was down the road on the right. I finally saw the sign which I had missed the first time around. I unlocked the gate behind which was a small garden. A hammock was strung between two trees; just ahead was a little bridge over a stream. And then I saw it in front of me. The staggering beauty of the lake. A narrow strip of stony beach, a changing hut to my left.
I changed in the hut and quickly plunged into the cool water, diving beneath its surface and swimming away from the shore, full of a childlike sense of excitement.
And then I emerged. I surveyed the vast still lake. Blue sky. I swam further towards a buoy. To my left I could see a jetty. And now I had sun on my face. Snow-capped mountains looked majestic in the distance. Birds above. Apart from that, it was so quiet. A few moored boats but no activity. No sign of human life. Just me, swimming and floating. Taking it all in.
Making the choice to head there that morning was one of the best decisions I’d made in my working life for a while. In those crystal clear waters of Starnberger See, beneath the cobalt sky and the mountains, I knew this was an experience that would fuel me for a long time.
It would have been easy, after my presentation, to jump on wifi and check up on emails. To think, it’s too hard and complicated and there’s not enough time to go swimming. But this is my life. I work, but I can play too. I allow myself these moments because I know they are fleeting - and because they are snatched, and a bit crazy, they are all the more beautiful for it. So that morning, instead of wondering what had landed in my inbox, I decided to celebrate with a dip in a glorious lake. Celebrate my work, my life, my choices. And it’s no lie, as I climbed out of the water I felt I’d just had the best swim of my life.
Every day we have a choice of how we spend our hours, and after all, we need to fuel ourselves - such moments carry us when our work lives aren’t so full of joy and light. Of course, we don’t all have a Bavarian lake to jump into on a Tuesday morning, and it’s rare I will again soon. But when the opportunity is there, I’ll grab it every time.